Game Preview and Thread: Knicks vs. Wizards

To get set for tonight’s matchup against the Washington Wizards, we hooked up with Conor D. Dirks of the TrueHoop Network’s Truth About It. Me n’ Robert Silverman talked Knicks over at their place too. Link’ll be up soon.

It was a tad surprising to see Washington ditch their starting small forward, Trevor Ariza, filling the gap on the wing with Paul Pierce. What’s the primary cost of Ariza’s exit, and how might we expect Pierce to fit in alongside Otto Porter Jr. and Rasual Butler Wall & Beal? Also, on a scale of one to 1995 Pat Riley, how much more should Knicks fans loathe the Wizards with Pierce on board? 

CDD: As one of my favorite Wizards to cover (his throwaway press scrum one-liners were unmatched), the personal cost is high. Ariza has picked up in Houston right where he left off, and through four games, is shooting 59.3 percent on 3-pointers. That this is not particularly surprising should be an indicator of how expected, and necessary, Ariza’s redefined role as a catch-and-shoot ace was with Washington. Trouble is, with Beal and Webster both injured, the shooting issue is compounded. The theater in which samples are held is small and all, but the Wizards are taking five fewer 3-pointers per game so far this year.

That said, the Wizards did the right thing when they didn’t beat Houston’s offer for Lord Threeza. Signing Ariza would have locked them into their current team for years, with very little wiggle room to tweak and improve their good, but not great, roster. The Pierce signing, on the other hand, is a bargain (two years, $11 million) and wraps up neatly before the summer during which every red-white-and-blue-blooded Wizards fan will be convinced the team is on the brink of signing Kevin Durant.

Of course, Paul Pierce the player (rather than chess piece) is still excellent, when he’s not getting tossed unceremoniously from games for talking incessantly at a very busy referee. He’s already started to discover what Martell Webster and Ariza discovered before him. If you stand in the corner, John Wall will get you buckets. Last year, in Brooklyn, his pet shot was the above-the-break 3-pointer, and I expect he’ll get opportunities there, too, as a trailer to the Wall-led fast break. Ultimately, the Wizards signed Pierce for exactly what he provided in the game against Orlando last Thursday: in the fourth quarter, Wall fed Pierce when the Wizards needed points to keep up with a suddenly frisky Magic team, and Pierce delivered, posting up a smaller Ben Gordon on back-to-back plays before hitting a jumper he’s hit hundreds and hundreds of times over a long career.

Maybe I underestimate the Wizards notoriety, but I’m not sure they’re a hate-worthy team yet. They haven’t won 50 games since 1979, man. Unless they fax 120 points to Carmelo’s home office tonight, I think they’re subject to more of a gentleman’s distaste than a Cavs-level “these motherfuckers” eyeroll. But hey, that’s just me. Maybe you hate the Wizards before it’s cool to hate the Wizards, maybe you hate “their early stuff.” It’s New York, after all.

Last year, Washingon bopped the Knicks at MSG in one of the more Knicks-ian ways imaginable. Most of the participants from said debacle are gone (pours one out for Beno Udrih), but it doesn’t appear as if the Knicks are any better equipped to combat the ‘Zards chief offensive weapons. Which dagger do you do you see Washington choosing to slice up the Knicks tonight?

CDD: Short answer: I don’t! While New York’s lineup strikes me as one of the most unlikely in recent history, something is working so far. When the Knicks transubstantiated LeBron’s new Cavs skin into the stale biscuit of misguided corporate zeal last week, they showed that they’re capable…aw shit, I’m not going to be able to sum this up better than your own Kevin McElroy did in the recap: the Knicks are not here to be extras, whether it be in LeBron’s coronation scene, or, presumably, elsewhere this season.

Remember, too, that the final, fatal points in that game were scored by a Washington Wizard who is on the shelf – Bradley Beal. Washington’s defense hasn’t figured itself out yet (it will – Randy Wittman does defensive systems very well, even if he doesn’t do all that much else), and the team is vulnerable to hot 3-point shooting.

The Wizards got a shade less than 1000 minutes from the Gortat-Nene pairing last season, besting opponents by nearly 11 points per 100 possessions with those two on the floor. How many minutes do you realistically think they’ll log together in 2014-15, and what’s the ceiling for this team with a healthy frontline?

CDD:  I would have opened this answer by saying there’s just no way that Nene plays all 82 games this season, but he beat me to the punch. The NBA’s most draconian rule resulted in a Game 1 suspension for standing up and observing the aftermath of Paul Pierce “booping” Joakim Noah in the team’s first preseason game. The Brazilian “gladiator” (Marcin Gortat’s words, not mine (Gortat also recites lines from 300 in the pre-game locker room, so he has a thing)) is a lock to play less than the full complement of regular season games this year. My best guess? 65.

In terms of total minutes, it depends on whether new signees Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair ever get their acts together. Humphries has been awful thus far, and is at risk of making his “reformed celebrity” image vulnerable to criticism, even in D.C., known to many as “Hollywood for ugly people.” Here’s something about Humphries that you might not know: he said “organic” outside the context of food in his first-ever D.C. media day Monumental Network (owner Ted Leonsis’ web-based broadcast network) interview. Regardless, his chunky cardigan-wearing ass is semi-likable for now. If he and Blair play well, Wittman may be comfortable giving Nene fewer in-game minutes, thereby reducing the likelihood that he’ll miss a game here and there for maintenance. So: 900 minutes.

For the last two seasons, even when Emeka Okafor rather than Gortat started, Washington’s starting lineup has been one of the top 5-man units in the NBA. By contrast, their bench has been one of the worst. That was supposed to be a thing of the past, but here we are. Kevin Seraphin’s aura is so toxic that he seems capable of poisoning a lead just by entering the game (he’s second-worst in the NBA in PER right now at MINUS-19.7) This team’s ceiling, if healthy, is probably a seven-game series in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Caveat: if the Wizards draw Chicago in the semis, they have a real shot at the Eastern Conference Finals.

There is a cupboard full of veteran bros on the roster. Who’s the shrewdest, savviest floor general/locker room leader/[insert cliché] of them all, and why? 

CDD:  TAI’s editor-in-chief Kyle Weidie answered this question with aplomb, after chirps from myself and co-editor John Converse Townsend, in our annual season preview. So I’m punting to him. Bring us home, Kyle.

“Andre Miller by unanimous decision,” posed John C. Townsend in a GChat. I was most definitely ready to concur. Oldest dude in the NBA (who will play; Steve Nash still “technically” an NBAer) with deceptive on top of deceptive on top of deceptive passing skills to boot? That’s like savvy meatloaf made with savvy grass-feed beef from savvy cuts of certified Angus with savvy bacon from Marcin Gortat’s finest, savvy pig wrapped around it. Gots to be the Professor, right?
Hol’ up, chimed Conor D. Dirks. “What about Paul Pierce?” Miller’s passing is nice, but savvy really means that you bring game-closing offense to the table. Telling the truth always wins out in savvy contests. (And contrary to popular belief, the savvy do not lie.)
One final point from Mr. Dirks, “Also, is RASUAL BUTLER the savviest? I mean, he found a way to make a team over younger prospects despite being on/off NBA teams over last few years.”
Mr. Butler is more like a wrench to this game, but a wrench that can do other things (for the ingenious and defensive-minded, a knife, a cork screw, and a nail file fold out the end of said wrench).
Alas, in the two-horse race between Andre and Paul, as Mr. Townsend called it, the nod is going to go to Pierce. He’s got a ring (so savvy), and unlike Andre Miller, he embraces mind games with opponents. That Paul Pierce, he’s like the candy corn of savvy. Whatever that means.

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71 thoughts to “Game Preview and Thread: Knicks vs. Wizards”

  1. Playoffs=getting road wins vs. depleted conference playoff opponents. This is a must win. The season, heck, the future of the franchise depends on it. If we lose, I say fire Jackson and Fisher immediately.

  2. Also, fuck Paul Pierce


    I’m intrigued by the Wall-Larkin matchup. That’s a whole lot of quick.

  3. fuuuuuukkkk. messed up the start time. missed the first few minutes. what did i miss (other than Cole owning the league)?

  4. Very impressed with Larkin’s D. Short arms and all, he has great hands and super-quick feet. Love that smack-down on Pierce!

  5. Like the quick hook for Dalembert. I may have to rethink my stance on him being a “great passer in the triangle”.

  6. I can’t believe I’m sayin this…..but I really enjoy watchin the Smiths work when they’re on the floor together. I wonder why they have so much chemistry….like- what causes JR to look for Jason so much? Is it the last name thing? Whatever it is, I hope they keep it goin.

  7. Breen giving Cole lots of love, “he contributes!” is code for “he has a high WP48.”

    JR and Novakaine had good chemistry as well.

  8. also, its amazing what accountability does for a team. a couple of possessions ago, JR had it with about 5 on the clock. last season he soooo would have chucked up a step back. this year, he finds TH2 for a good shot

  9. Wall vs Larkin : Speed vs Speed

    Miller vs Prigs : Old vs Old

    I do loves me some Priggy Smalls though. I wish we could have had him in his prime.

  10. I like what Fisher has done with the minutes allocation here. He has had either Dalmbert or Aldrich in for the entire game, with Amar’e and Jason Smith only playing PF and never C.

  11. I can’t tell whether Melo is now just playing possum until crunch time of if the offense just can’t get him the ball.

  12. I’m seeing good things. A backdoor cut and lay-in that I don’t think EVER happened last year. The passing isn’t crisp-crisp, but I’m seeing Melo and Co trying. Country Cole with good hustle. Jason Smith is money with that 18 ft – it’s kinda like a safety valve shot when other options don’t work out. I like it.

  13. Maaaan… if Shump Shump can keep his 3-ball form and confidence like we’ve seen so far through most of this season…

  14. Melo is having a shitty game. Trying to do too much on his own, turning it over a lot and not getting high-percentage looks.

  15. Horrible 3rd quarter, the worst the Knicks have looked all year. It’s all contested, off-the-dribble 20 footers.

  16. Wiz are good… definite vet savvy there.
    That said, I think there were some passes to be made that could’ve helped offensive motion but the players aren’t seeing em yet.

  17. Cole Powers seem to coincide with his fake tooth. Once that got knocked out it has been down hill.

  18. The wizards are doing a good job of denying passing lanes. Knicks having a hard time trying to counter

  19. Not liking how all discipline and any vestige of triangularity seems to disappear in the 4th quarter. It’s like the last 12 mins of each game are a goundhog day replay of last season. Fire Woodson!

  20. Some teams can floor twin towers; but with Jason Smith and Cole Aldrich, we have the twin towel-boys.

  21. Bad, bad force by Melo.
    In time, I hope that the triangle will allow Melo to not have to force shots like that.

  22. hindsight 20/20 and i love what fish is doing, but tonight, too much amare, not enough dalembert

  23. To be fair, we ALL knew there would be games like this. Growing pains with the triangle. We all also know there will be even more games like this.

  24. It seems like Melo always has more shots when he is shooting poorly than when he is shooting well (unless he’s going off for 62). When he gets frustrated and puts that angry face on you can pretty much wrap it up that the Knicks are not winning the game.

  25. Well, most of us said we’d be happy to be a .500 team at the end of the season, so we’re right on pace.

    Also, I was very impressed with the Wizard’s D tonight, we sucked, but they didn’t give us anything easy.

  26. Wiz are good – top 4 team in the East. When’s the last time you could say that about them? When they had ‘Sheed/CWebb/Juwan?

    Calderon’s offense and orchestration I think would’ve helped tonight.

  27. So Jason Smith, Cole Aldrich, and Travis Wear on the court?
    Damn, Fisher is literally waving the white flag.

  28. Then there is the Q. Acy factor…his defense and overall ruggedness would have helped in the 3rd quarter especially…

  29. A bummer, but so it goes. The only thing I found a little disconcerting about this game was that it was their fourth straight attempting 15 (or so) 3-pointers. I’m not sure if they’re taking fewer threes because they’re still uncomfortable in the triangle, or if they’re firing up all these mid-range jumpers by design. Phil’s Lakers teams averaged around 20, so I’m hoping it’s the former. If it’s the latter, I think they’re in for a world of pain. I’ve been pleased with Fisher, both his rotations and his demeanor, but that would be Woodson-level dumb.

    Apropos of nothing: Do all the Knicks beat writers hate Marc Berman? I can’t tell if they just like to bust his chops, or if they genuinely can’t stand him. Alan Hahn took a shot at him on Twitter last week, and it seemed a little testy.

  30. Could only watch the 4th quarter, cant say Im not too surprised by this result. Before the season I wouldve gladly taken a 2-2 start. These next 10 games should be pretty interesting, only 3 games vs playoff teams from last season (BK and ATL twice). Hope Calderon returns soon.

  31. Melo, get some sleep tonight. Definitely looked like you were up late last night. So glad Amare got a chance to earn his 23 mil tonight with all those extra Acy minutes. Really fish?

  32. Credit to the Wizards. Pierce is far from done. His defense was the key to the game. Also, the Knicks looked good when they kept the ball moving but when things got tough and the Wizard defense pressed, the Knicks reverted to iso-ball, and chucking up contested threes. I hope that after a couple of months the team will play with more consistency.

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